Deserter - Chapter Seven: Calling

  • 'The only time a soldier can be truly at ease, Caius, is on his deathbed.'

    Weary eyes observed the inert form of a hold guard with solemn contemplation. 'Broken', a healer had said of the body. 'Beyond restoration.' And indeed, the chest shuddered silently with every breath; singed flesh quivered stiffly with every movement. The Jarl watched the soldier breathe weakly, winced as blood surged out of gaps in cauterised skin; sensed him clinging to the little and ebbing life he had left. 

    'The carriage from Castle Dour has arrived, my Jarl,' A steward announced once again, impatiently, but the Jarl just blinked. Once it was clear the man would respond no further, the steward pressed on. 'A Thalmor agent and soldiers await you in the main hall.'

    'Who let them into the city?' Murmured the Jarl, gaze unwavering. He knew the answer, however. What was left of his guard force had been withdrawn from the city, so the gates were unprotected. He almost asked the messenger to bring the visitors to him, but it registered that the dungeons were hardly a fitting place for such a meeting. 'I will attend to them soon.'

    'My Jarl, if I may... Why wait for this man to awaken?' Commander Caius questioned from behind the cell's bars. 'Surely it would be easier to use him as a scapegoat were he in his current state- unable to object.'

    'To not do so would be craven, Caius. If I were being condemned, I would want to be told beforehand. Whatever reaction he gives us, we would more than deserve it.' The dungeon fell silent, and the Jarl slowly rose from his chair, which creaked in the absence of his weight. Leaning over his fallen subject, Jarl Balgruuf breathed in shakily and whispered. 'Awaken, my boy. Whiterun needs you.' 

    And, somewhere within the steel helmet, eyes opened. 


    The Hold Guard clenched his jaw as he collapsed before the second High Elf he found himself loathing in two days. He tried to stand in an act of defiance, but shattered legs sent him crashing onto his knees with a pained groan. Agony shot through his cheek as he was brought to the floor, prone, with a swift kick. Helpless, weak, the Guard could do nothing but gaze up at the agent in contempt. 

    'Is this some kind of joke, Balgruuf?' The official narrowed his eyes at the Jarl and planted a foot on the fallen soldier's chest. 'You expect me to believe that this pathetic, incompetent mess nearly killed my colleague all on his own?' 

    The Jarl wrestled with himself for a second, looking from the Hold Guard to the Thalmor agent and back. Finally, he averted his gaze. 'I don't care whether you believe it or not. Its the truth,' he said dejectedly. 

    The entire hall echoed with screams as the High Elf's boot pressed down harder upon the Hold Guard's crushed ribs. 

    'You know, Balgruuf,' the elf took his foot off of the Guard and nodded at the rest of the court. 'These people may believe these lies that you're feeding them - well, you're paying them to - but can we acknowledge, privately, that they are lies?' The Jarl didn't respond.

    'It matters not, anyway,' continued the Thalmor official, 'agent Sauril is already in Solitude, and will recover soon- he might be able to shed some light on this... grey area.' He gestured to the two elven soldiers in his company, who hoisted the Hold Guard up between their shoulders. 'Until then, my Jarl, enjoy being alive.' He turned and walked away, entourage at his heels. 

    For the Hold Guard, death loomed inevitably overhead. He was dragged away from the man he had served almost all of his life, the man who had branded him a traitor. The thought should have filled him with cold dread, but instead he felt relief; for he had lived through too much, and his very being was weary. It would be nice, after all this, to be reacquainted with those he had lost and held dear. He made peace with the fact that his death would absolve Whiterun of any wrongdoing, and was prepared to face his fate-

    'Wait!' the Jarl bellowed, and the Thalmor stopped in their tracks. 'Agent Araltil. Perhaps we can discuss something in private.' Jarl Balgruuf's voice shook as he made the request, but the High Elf raised his eyebrows and nodded at his soldiers, Balgruuf dismissed his court, and the Hold Guard found himself on the floor once again, alone in the hall but for Jarl Balgruuf and Agent Araltil. 

    'You were correct,' said the Jarl, the confession breaking the silence. 'I ordered my guards to assault your colleague.' Araltil smiled knowingly, but tensed immediately after the Jarl said: 'just like they're about to do to you.' 

    The Thalmor agent spun around, expecting to find opponents, but instead found the bewildered, unmoving Hold Guard still on the floor. Never had the Guard seen more solemn determination than in the Jarl's eyes at that moment, as he whisked a dagger out of his robes and brought it down in a deadly arc. Deprived of blood the night before, remembered the Guard, the blade had finally gotten its wish. 

    Only when the unseeing eyes of Agent Araltil came level with the Hold Guard's own did he realise what the Jarl was planning. His leader pulled him to his feet and held the bloodied dagger out, telling him to 'make it look real.' He was being given an escape plan- but not simply for his own sake. 

    His hold - his home - would always be condemned while the other Thalmor agent was still alive to tell the truth. He understood then, that Whiterun did not need a guard. It did not need another mourner, nor a scapegoat. 

    What Whiterun needed was an assassin. 

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  • Malign
    Malign   ·  May 1, 2016
    This is very, very good. 
  • FishDout
    FishDout   ·  December 7, 2015
    High praise! Thanks Ian, I try my best. Definitely urge you to keep writing too, as (judging by your first chapter) you've got one hell of a knack for it.

    PS. Abnormally fast indeed!
  • Tenebrous
    Tenebrous   ·  December 6, 2015
    Wow. Having just read all seven chapters (I read abnormally fast, for the record) posted so far, I can safely say: this stuff's *amazing*. And the fate of the guardsman is unexpected, but makes sense, unlike a lot of other plot twists I could point at. Al...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  November 18, 2015
    Twists and turns, I'm glad to see a new chapter out.
  • FishDout
    FishDout   ·  November 17, 2015
    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! : P
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  November 17, 2015
    I was DEFINITELY NOT expecting this... 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 16, 2015
    Oh don't get me started on Spanish soap operas. My mom used to watch them and therefore, I watched them. 
    Your story is definitely NOT a Spanish soap opera. 
  • FishDout
    FishDout   ·  November 16, 2015
    Glad you're still enjoying it Lissette! Juicy, teehee, I take inspiration from those timeless Spanish soap operas.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 16, 2015
    This is just getting more juicy.